Post Office group CEO Paula Vennells was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list amidst continued legal action against the organisation by 500 postmasters.
As one of the 20 business chief execs to receive a title in this year’s list, the citation says the CBE is “For services to the Post Office and to charity,” referencing both her work within the organisation and externally as a reverend.
Post Office chairman Tim Parker said: “This is well-deserved recognition for Paula, who has led the turnaround of Post Office Ltd with great skill, passion and determination. She cares deeply about the business, its people and its customers, and it is wonderful to see her commitment and success marked in this way.”
Paula Vennells responded to receiving the CBE stating: “It is a privilege to lead a business that matters to people as much as the Post Office does; in truth, this honour is recognition of the hard work and commitment of so many colleagues across the organisation.”
Since joining the businesses, the Post Office has gone from losing £120m a year to generating a profit. However, revenues have fallen and the improved margins have mainly come from cost savings, including cuts to the remunerations paid to store owners.
Despite praise from within the Post Office, there was also outrage from some postmasters and external groups. The Communications Worker’s Union said the honour was “an absolute shamble,” citing Post Office closures and the decision to hand over branches to WHSmith.
Former postmaster and self-described “outspoken critic” of the Post Office’s network transformation programme Tim McCormack said Vennells should not have received the CBE on account of ongoing High Court trials in which 500 postmasters allege they were unfairly persecuted due to technical issues with the company’s Horizon computer system. The Post Office is contesting these allegations.
The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance which represents the 500 postmasters described the decision as ‘inappropriate’, a statement from the organisation reads: “How the destruction and financial ruin of so many lives entitles someone in total denial of the failures of her company, to an award usually reserved for those who have made a positive distinguished or notable contribution, is beyond understanding.”
Honours including BEM, MBE, OBE and CBEs are given out twice a year, once on the Queen’s birthday, and at the beginning of each year. In the latest round, 1,148 individuals received awards.
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